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Living Artfully: A Heart-full Guide of Ideas and Inspirations That Celebrate Life, Love, and Moments That Matter

Living Artfully: A Heart-full Guide of Ideas and Inspirations That Celebrate Life, Love, and Moments That Matter

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Living Artfully: A Heart-full Guide of Ideas and Inspirations That Celebrate Life, Love, and Moments That Matter

3.5/5 (14 ratings)
301 pages
4 hours
Aug 20, 2013


Many people today are looking outside themselves for well-being and happiness when what they're searching for has been inside them all along." -- Sandra Magsamen

Living artfully is expressing who you are through the moments that you create. Living Artfully reminds us to explore and experience life with more heart, meaning, purpose, and joy. It asks us to imagine, to dream big, to believe in ourselves, to celebrate the people in our lives, make each day count, dance when the spirit moves us, laugh out loud, and let our voices be heard.

In this beautiful, life-changing book, acclaimed artist and entrepreneur Sandra Magsamen will transform everything you think you know about art, creativity, and personal fulfillment. And she'll show you that you've already got just what you need in your own two hands to create the life of joy and beauty that you want -- for yourself and others.

Living Artfully puts you in direct touch with your own imagination, where the only rule is there are no rules. Warm, encouraging, always good-humored, it is full of inspiring stories about people who pursue their own creative impulses and are rewarded with unexpected and delightful results. By following the ten principles of Living Artfully -- Magsamen's own dynamic process of creative thinking and being -- you will embark on an exciting personal journey of self-discovery. You'll learn how to connect with everyone in your life in inventive new ways, through everyday things, caring gestures, meaningful moments, and simple gifts that really make a difference. You'll also discover how, where, and when you can use your own creative language -- the images, words, sounds, foods, or crafts through which you most easily express yourself.

To Sandra Magsamen, Living Artfully is connection. It's the ultimate form of communication. It's recognizing and embracing your own powerful, creative abilities. And the first step on the journey to Living Artfully is to rediscover the gifts of imagination, curiosity, and playfulness -- gifts that you already possess. Each chapter presents a wealth of practical and fun ideas that you can tailor to suit your own circumstances and preferences and that will jump-start your imagination and free dormant or forgotten talents. By giving yourself permission to be yourself, you'll embark on a personal renaissance, connecting with your inherent sense of fun and optimism and discovering that even simple tasks of everyday life can become perfect, natural outlets for your newfound creativity.

Filled with Sandra's stunning, four-color, signature artwork, Living Artfully is not a how-to book but a why-to -- uplifting, motivational, and fun. It is also a guide into a new cultural movement in which people choose to live with a creative purpose, celebrating the people, places, and moments that make life truly meaningful.
Aug 20, 2013

About the author

Sandra Magsamen is an internationally acclaimed artist and author who shares her meaningful messages and motifs through a widely popular range of books, ceramic gifts, cookware, stationery, home decor items, greeting cards, and calendars, all bearing her signature images and Messages from the Heart™. She lives in Maryland with her family. Visit the author at www.SandraMagsamen.com

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Living Artfully - Sandra Magsamen


Making Connections

he messages contained in our hearts are universal. Regardless of how old we are or the language we speak, we all wish to say the same basic things: Thank you, You’re great, You have made a difference in my life, I’m proud of you, I understand, I’m sorry, I love you, Good-bye. With these simple, powerful words, we build the intimate and meaningful relationships that give us purpose.

A man from Vermont got into the habit of leaving his wife little notes. Nothing elaborate, just sweet sentiments like I love you or I can’t wait to get home to you tonight, jotted down on Post-it notes and then hidden in places where he knew she’d discover them during the day. She’d open a drawer and find a note, reach into a kitchen cabinet and see one, and so on. They were everywhere—from inside the dog food bin, to the laundry hamper, to the driver’s seat of her car.

He was in the military and shipped out during the early days of the war in Iraq, where he was killed in action. On the morning of the funeral, his young widow put on her winter coat, placed her hands in the pockets, and found the last two notes, which he had hidden there for her as he left home. She pulled them out of her pockets, knowing exactly what they were. The first one read I will always love you. And the other, We will always be together. Did he know the circumstances under which she’d find them? It’s hard to say. You can imagine the sorrow she felt as she read them, but think how lucky she is to have had a husband who managed to reach out with a final, loving gesture.

e can live artfully through a thousand little everyday gestures, as well as a multitude of creative pastimes. I define art in the broadest sense—it is every possible medium of human expression. It is in what you say and how you say it. It is in using the rich resources of your senses to connect with the beauty in life. The art is in the message and in the medium you use to express it. Art is simply the name for how you live your life and how you tell others what you think and feel.

My current life began after my daughter, Hannah, was born. I wanted to do something special in our nursery, so I started making little clay plaques with messages on them. I thought that if I surrounded her with wise, loving thoughts and the things that I believed in, they would somehow sink in and make a difference in her life. Not only were these messages lessons for my daughter, but they also served as a gentle reminder to me of the simple truths I strived to embrace. I made ceramic plaques and inscribed them with sayings such as Believe in yourself, Let your dreams take flight, and Follow your heart. I’d then add beading and paint, then fire them and hang them on the walls. They were fun to make, and the results were beautiful and made me proud. I had no way of knowing that this was the beginning of connecting with not only my daughter, but a great many people, most of whom I would never even meet. I can’t say if my infant daughter was absorbing the literal meanings of the plaques, but I was, and in time she would, too.

I have four sisters and we’re all close, and of course they spent a lot of time at our house when Hannah was a baby. My sisters would see the plaques and before long they began asking if they could have a few to give to their friends as gifts. They would just take the plaques right down off the walls, and I was flattered and made more to replace the ones they took. Soon I started hearing from their friends who had received the plaques as gifts and wanted to buy more to give away to their friends and family.

So, down there in our basement, my art business was born. I bought a little kiln and put it where the clothes dryer was supposed to go, and I started making and selling plaques. I like to say that I stopped doing laundry and started doing pottery. I was working full-time as an art therapist then, but little by little the pottery began taking over my life. I realized that the plaques were really just another form of art therapy (or a continued way to avoid laundry)—people wanted to express feelings that they couldn’t fully communicate themselves. I branched out to art fairs, and before long I was selling to gift shops, and from that it turned into a thriving business with fifteen employees operating out of a converted barn in Maryland (and a dryer in my laundry room).

People ask me, Sandra, how do you come up with all the ideas and expressions? I hate to disappoint them, but I always point out that the expressions are so basic, and so much a part of people’s emotional lives, that I don’t really have to invent them. I am constantly finding new phrases just by listening to people, even strangers. Recently I was in an airport bathroom when I heard a woman say on her cell phone, Don’t worry, honey, our life may have some dips, but together we’ll get through them. I had to jot it down on a paper towel before I got out of there. On the train I overheard a young man speaking with clear abandon on his cell phone, declaring, Life’s just better when we’re together. Out of necessity (okay, joy), I have become a professional eavesdropper. Or I’ll read something in a magazine or a novel and add it to my notebook. The power of any expression lies in its emotional truth, so you don’t have to get too fancy to capture the most important feelings.

As these clay messages spread across the country, so did the distance over which the letters, e-mails, and stories would come, revealing how people were experiencing them, sharing them, and connecting with others in artful ways.

Not long ago, I heard from a mother and daughter who had gone to a store that carries my plaques after the daughter learned that she had advanced breast cancer. She said, Mom, I want to pick out some messages for certain people, and when I’m in hospice care and can’t speak for myself, I want you to give them their plaques. She chose a bunch, and then she picked the one that would go to her mother. It read, You are the best mother in the whole universe.

When I heard that story, I was awed by the fact that these little ceramic messages could be given as such a big, heartfelt legacy, and I was touched that I had made something that could matter so much—that could give a dying daughter some peace. Sharing these simple truths had seemed so easy; their strength had been somewhat imperceptible to me until that moment. Hanging them on my infant daughter’s walls was one thing, but having them connect the worlds between life and death was beyond anything I had considered.

A friend recently shared another truly beautiful story with me of a creative gift a mother who was dying of cancer gave to her seven-year-old daughter. She envisioned all of the future milestones she would miss in her daughter’s life—birthdays, graduations, her wedding day, the birth of her children—and she wrote letters to her daughter to read for each of them. The idea was that the letters would be given to the daughter throughout her life from the most special woman in her life—her mother. Although she was physically having to say good-bye, this devoted mom was ensuring that she’d continue to live in her daughter’s life through these precious expressions of love.

There is no end to the ways in which we can share what’s in our hearts. Still another story of artful living is this sweet example of a family that created a book entitled Love Is. This beautiful book was created to celebrate a forty-fifth wedding anniversary. The children and grandchildren of the lovebirds each thoughtfully described the lessons they’d learned about love from their mother and father (or grandmother and grandfather). Each one begins Love is: followed by the lesson: By always welcoming us into your home with open arms and hearts you have taught us how to be generous. And The cute nicknames you have given us, like Kissa Marysa, shows how much you love us. And Giving us lots of hugs and kisses. And When you share your sand castle, pool, beach, toys, snacks, and chocolate with us. And my favorite, To say ‘I love you’ more often than not, and always before saying ‘good-bye.’

Whether you recognize it or not, you have always included some form of artfulness in your day-to-day living. But there are three good reasons why Living Artfully is particularly important today.

Living Artfully is important because we all hunger for more self-expression. I don’t mean that we fail to speak our hearts (although that’s probably true in many cases). I mean that deep inside, we all yearn to create things and moments that make our feelings tangible. We want to convey more than what spoken words alone can say. Sometimes there simply are no words to express what we’re feeling. Sometimes a gesture of kindness says it all. And yet, these days, not enough of us heed—or even acknowledge—this desire to create.

Everyone in my studio knew and loved Jean, who used to answer the phones a few days a week. So when she was diagnosed with lung cancer, we were all saddened and concerned. The days Jean went in for treatments were very difficult for her—she was so scared of the hospital, the needles, the chemotherapy, and of course the cancer itself. Not knowing what to do, but wanting to let her know we cared, I asked everyone in the studio to make something we could put into a box that might bring a smile to Jean’s face or give her a moment’s peace—a box of hope. The studio assistants and I filled the box with quotations, drawings, cartoons, life-affirming messages, jokes, and thoughts that might occupy her mind during the treatments. The number of things we packed into that box was amazing. Everyone wanted to help. We decorated it and Jean took the box with her on every visit.

Later, she told us how much she loved the box and looked forward to opening it each time to discover what was inside. Her treatments were still frightening, but now they were also punctuated with many moments of inspiration, love, and kindness. Jean found strength, hope, humor, and joy hidden within the box and herself.

The second reason Living Artfully is important is because many people feel a lack of meaning in the work we do all day. Today, most people I know go through life at top speed. Women in particular are insanely busy, whether working in the home or out of it. On any given day they perform a mind-boggling number of tasks, but they often feel as though they haven’t accomplished very much. They’re running so fast that their life has become a blur, but when they do stop for a second to look around, they’re disappointed by what they see. They wonder just what it is that they’re devoting so much of themselves to, and if it’s worth it. They say they want to slow down, do things that feel more meaningful. And they want to do things well—not at breakneck speed, and not slapdash because there’s no time or energy to do them any better. In this fast-paced world, we seem less able to focus and see the things that really matter.

Many Americans spend the bulk of their waking hours getting ready for, going to, sitting at, coming home from, and winding down from work. When we’re not busy performing our jobs, we’re thinking of work or trying to recover from it. Yet even for those of us who love our chosen work, we want the efforts of our hands and our minds to yield something more meaningful than making ends meet or accumulating money. Despite our exhaustion and jam-packed schedules, we want to put more of ourselves into our lives and into the world. We know there must be a way, but modern life often erodes the connection between us and our labors. We are distanced from our innate creativity and don’t want the idea of getting creative to be just another to-do entry on our endless list.

The simple truth is that each one of us has the power to make the world a better place. We each leave our mark on the world every moment of every day through the choices we make and the actions we take.

Living Artfully is important because we need more opportunities for play! We need more fun, more imagining, more well-being. We need more of the sensation of being lost in a moment of joy. We knew that feeling each day in childhood but, for the most part, not since—even though we are all still the same human beings, with the same basic emotional needs, as we were back then.

When I was a child my mom would send my four sisters and me out to play on summer days. Don’t come back until dinner were her parting words as she ushered us out the door. We spent our days discovering and creating big adventures, building forts, riding bikes, jumping rope, singing silly songs, chasing butterflies, hiding in cornfields, picking flowers, making mud pies. We used our imagination, we played, we created, we found wonder in everything, and we discovered, experimented, invented, laughed, felt accomplishment, and lived in the moment. I loved those unstructured, carefree days where everything about life and being me was filled with possibility.

Play rejuvenates and revitalizes us. It helps us see the world from different points of view. It rekindles our optimism, encourages experimentation, and renews our ability to be flexible and make meaningful connections as we continually adapt to our changing world. One of the most wonderful by-products of play is laughter.

Laughter is inner jogging.

—Norman Cousins

Research shows that laughter lowers blood pressure, reduces the release of stress-related hormones, increases muscle flexibility, and boosts immune function. Laughter also triggers the release of endorphins, our body’s natural painkillers, and results in a general sense of well-being. Laughter is an instant vacation; it’s also a lifesaver.

Living Artfully will encourage and inspire you to reconnect with your enthusiasm and your passion. Play will again become a joyful part of each day; even simple chores like cleaning the house can be filled with fun. I know a mom with four teenagers still living at home who was tired of complaining about the never-ending river of clothes spilling out from her small laundry room into the hallway. So she got creative. Now every Sunday, each family member washes and dries one or two loads, and then they all gather together in the TV room with popcorn and a movie for a family fold-a-thon. Another woman I know turns up her stereo as loud as she can on Saturday mornings before proceeding to dance her way through vacuuming the house to the blaring, soulful sounds of Aretha Franklin. Tell me she isn’t giving herself some R-E-S-P-E-C-T!

ake-believe and play go hand in hand, and too many grown-ups forget how much fun it is to use their imaginations playfully. When I was a little girl, every day after school my neighbor and I made believe we were famous chefs. My favorite food back then was pizza, so we invented little superspecial, secret-sauce replications of what we’d seen thrown together down at the local pizzeria. We mixed together the perfect amount of ketchup, garlic, oregano, and salt and pepper for a surprisingly delicious sauce, slathered it on an English muffin, and topped it with the essential ingredients. Our tasty mini pizza pie rivaled anything made by the pros—at least in our

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What people think about Living Artfully

14 ratings / 3 Reviews
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Reader reviews

  • (3/5)
    Inspiring! Book in one hand and my paint brush in the other.
  • (1/5)
    I made it to chapter 3. Too many platitudes for my taste.
  • (3/5)

    1 person found this helpful

    I liked that this book was inspirational without being fluffy. There were a lot of very practical tips for finding the creativity in yourself. Even when you don't think that you have an ounce of creativity in you, this book helps you realize that you do. The overall takeaway is that you should enjoy every minute. Nothing new, but something that we all need to be reminded of frequently.

    1 person found this helpful